On the 9th August 2012 SCOBA put on a surprise birthday tribute to one of the all time greats of Stoke City.
If you do not know the history then this brief summary gives you some idea of what John achieved in the game :-
John began his career with his local side Crewe Alexandra in 1950.
He formed a good partnership with Frank Blunstone and the pair were highly wanted by other clubs. John joined Stoke City for £8,000 and soon began to show his worth. He spent eight seasons at the Victoria ground making 311 appearances scoring 113 goals to became one of the clubs greatest goalscorers.
He later played for Cardiff City and made a return to his home town team, Crewe Alex.
In total he made 543 appearances and scored 185 goals. The evening took place at the Broughton Arms in Balterley and was attended by around 100 guests including Johns family and friends and a host of former Stoke City players including many of the 1972 League Cup winning team.
The evening was compared by Nigel Johnson and he took us on a journey of John’s life and career in a “this is your life” style presentation. First guest up was Frank Blunstone who had played with John at Crewe and later went on to gain success with Chelsea and England.
Frank spoke about the time when John moved to Stoke and that he himself had been offered a move to Stoke, but chose Chelsea instead, now that would have been a partnership worth seeing! Next up was Eric Skeels who was just starting his career as John was finishing his time at Stoke, as any good Stokie will know Eric went on to make more appearances for Stoke than any other player to this date.
Other former colleagues Don Ratcliffe and Don Whiston spoke fondly of John and it was clear from the outset that he was some player and was unlucky not to play for England but he did play in an England select eleven which included the late great Bobby Robson. John was having a great time remembering the stories and events, the room fell apart when somebody shouted, “ Hey John youre getting the bill for this lot.” John replied nervously , “ Am I, Ive only got 200 quid in the post office!” John being a bit hard of hearing played his part with his trade mark one liners his footballing career and observations of his life and his family, absolutely priceless.
For all his 80 years John was keen to point out that although his mind was not as sharp as it was, his fitness was something he was proud of stating “ I can still sprint the length of a football pitch.”
A lovely touch was a tribute from Dario Gradi who had not know of John but was to learn from Crewe fans over the many years he has been associated with the club that John was one of the best players that had played for Crewe. What Dario did say was that even today John was still enthusiastic about the game and would go anywhere just to watch a match.
Nigel asked John to recall a memorable match and to name the team and to everybody’s amazement he reeled off the names as if it was yesterday. Nigel spoke about the all time scoring list for Stoke with John ranked at number 5 with 113 goals just ahead of a another legend sat in the room Jimmy Greenhoff with 103 goals. John was presented with a fantastic portrait of himself in action a superb birthday cake and a scrapbook full of memories.
With entertainment from Eddie Mooney (from The Fortunes) the evening was complete, a fitting tribute to a great footballer and a true gentleman.
Many thanks to everybody who helped make the evening a success with special thanks to Terry Conroy who was the driving force behind the event.